Shannon Bownes ’16

Published June 6, 2017

To learn from someone who embodied such hope and selflessness after enduring the ultimate horrors of humanity was a truly profound experience. Dr. Elie Wiesel’s soft-spoken words radiated wisdom. The entire class would hold our breath to hang on to each word as every sentence filled us with emotion, knowledge and curiosity. We not only learned about classic literature such as To Kill a Mockingbird, The Plague and No Exit from an acclaimed author, but we learned how to utilize our privilege and education to bring out the best of our own humanity. Dr. Wiesel taught a room of Eckerd students, an immensely socially conscious group of young adults dedicated to service and selfless action, that we could do even more to serve our fellow human beings. He taught us that indifference is the true opposite of good and that it is our responsibility to abstain from indifference on any injustice. This responsibility, however, was overwhelming. With so much injustice in the world, how was it possible to counter it all?

When my time for private office hours came, I approached Dr. Wiesel with this uncertainty in my capabilities to make a difference. He looked at me with great concentration and calmly provided a response that eased my worry. He explained there is always someone in the world waiting for our help and that many people don’t have the will to find them. He paused for a moment and then declared that he could see in my face that I would find those who needed my help. That moment of encouragement and profound inspiration has fueled my passion for service and my will to find the injustice that I am capable of countering. Dr. Wiesel taught me to hope for justice and believe in the possibility of curing the world of hate through knowledge and kindness.

—Shannon Bownes ’16